Whistling and Spirits

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Singaporean
Age: 83
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Singapore
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/22/2021
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): Malay, Hokkein

Context

The following collection of this Singapore superstition came about during a routine phone call between me and my grandfather.

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Performance

The following is translated and transcribed from a story told by the interviewee.

“You cannot whistle at night because you will attract spirit into your home. My father used to tell me that a lot. I liked to whistle a lot and he would smack me on the lips. If we invite the spirits into our home bad things happen. Especially on days that he went to buy TOTO, if I whistled he would get extra angry. So you cannot whistle at night.”

TOTO (pronounced as toe-toe) refers to a form of gambling activity provided by the Singapore Lottery Pool. The lottery game is played by purchasing a card and picking six numbers, the closers the numbers match the winning set, the more money one wins.

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Analysis

This is a common superstition amongst the older generation in Singapore. To attract spirits in your home is a very bad thing. Spirits are known to be ghosts with the agenda to haunt people and bring about bad luck. I believe that this superstition comes from Singapore in the early 1900s where the poverty rate was high and security in homes was low. And whistling would attract attention and thus it was advised not to whistle in order to keep a low profile at night. And as time went on, this evolved into not whistling in order to keep spirits away. What I found interesting was that not whistling at night was especially important when my grandfather’s father bought a lottery ticket. Gambling was very common in Singapore, and there weren’t many ways to climb up the economic ladder when my grandfather was younger. And thus, many people would put hopes on gambling and lotteries as a means to earn wealth. It thus makes sense that with that much hope placed on these lottery tickets that a lot of superstition comes about.